Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17), Shabbat Rosh Chodesh (Numbers 28:9-15)

The majority of the laws in Deuteronomy are in the next three weeks’ Torah portions, starting with Chapter 12:

“These are the laws and rules that you must carefully observe in the land that the LORD, God of your fathers, is giving you to possess, as long as you live on earth.”

They are introduced by verses 11:26-28:

See, this day I set before you a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but (you) turn away.”

We’ll read about the antiphonal recitation of specific blessings and curses later.  I have color-coded some of the words according to their number in the Hebrew, blue for singular 2nd person and red for plural 2nd person.  The initial command “see” (or “look”) is addressed to each individual Israelite, while the blessing and curse are given to the whole people.  That emphasizes that each individual’s own behavior can affect the fate of the entire people. (See A Daily Taste of Torah, Kleinmann Edition, Rabbi Y. A. Weiss ed., vol. 12, pp. 66-67)

Another implication of these verses is that the Israelites have free will, to obey or not to obey, and they choose obedience or disobedience knowingly.

The laws that follow concern more specifically how to behave in the Promised Land. (12:8): “You shall not act at all as we now act here, every man as he pleases.”  Such laws include purging the land of idolatry and its symbols and not adopting abhorrent practices like child sacrifice and cutting oneself as part of mourning, bringing offerings only to a single location the Lord will choose, remembering to take care of the Levites, eating non-sacrificial meat, and condemning false prophets or anyone who tries to turn them away from the Lord.  On a more personal level, laws address tithing, the sabbatical and jubilee years, taking care of the needy, and freeing Hebrew slaves.

And what is more personal and basic than the food they can and can’t eat?  Laws address kosher and non-kosher animals, not eating blood, and not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk.  (this is the source of all the laws on separating meat and dairy).  Such laws have inspired all sorts of explanations concerning cultural food restrictions – why restrict at all and why those particular restrictions.  The overarching issue of wholeness and holiness as a key factor in choosing what animals are fit to eat is addressed in Purity and Danger by Mary T. Douglas and other references, which I’ve gone into several times already, such as in Shemini 2016 and Re’eh 2017, so I won’t go through all that again here.

But please note that food safety is not the motivating factor for determining what animals are not kosher.   See Shemini 2016.  Many poisonous creatures are unsafe yet not explicitly forbidden, and Jews have always known non-Jews happily eat non-kosher animals with generally no adverse physical effects.  Kashrut, the practice of keeping kosher, is intended as a means to keep the Israelites (later, the Jews) separate and distinct.  It is a powerful tool for maintaining both group identity and individual awareness whenever you put something in your mouth or contemplate doing so.

Re’eh also includes laws on how and why to observe the harvest holidays (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot) beyond sacrifices, now that they will have something to harvest.  Those verses are, not surprisingly, read on the harvest holidays.

All the laws are to be followed precisely, not added to or subtracted from (interpretations don’t count as emendations).

Speaking of sacrifices, we have a second scroll reading, Numbers 28:9-15, with the Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) sacrifices, because this weekend is Rosh Chodesh Elul, which is also the Hebrew date of our wedding anniversary (August 14, 1977).  “Elul,” aleph-lamed-vuv-lamed, can also be an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. There is a special haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh that we’ll read at my shul, Isaiah 66:1-24; for other possibilities, since it’s a two-day Rosh Chodesh and we’re in the midst of the Haftarot of Consolation, see Re’eh 2015.  This is the last month of the Hebrew year.  Every day except on Shabbat, the shofar is blown, to help us get ready mentally and emotionally for the upcoming High Holidays.

Shabbat shalom and Chodesh tov (a good month),


Torah in Haiku – R’eih By Ed (2008)

(Below, treif = trayf = unkosher)

The magpie is treif
Definitely good news for
Heckle and Jeckle

Reply by Dov

blessings & a curse
dreaming of eco-kosher
don’t gash your forehead

eggs from the mother
a kid in its mother’s milk
all cruelty is trayf


Quotes on the Individual and Society

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. Friedrich Nietzsche

Teamwork requires some sacrifice up front; people who work as a team have to put the collective needs of the group ahead of their individual interests. Patrick Lencioni

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s the individual effort of everybody working together towards a collective goal that causes real, effective change in America and in the world. David Hogg

Research shows that the climate of an organization influences an individual’s contribution far more than the individual himself. W. Edwards Deming


Kosher Jokes

  • I bought Kosher sausages from the local deli for the first time, and it looks a little weird.
    Is it normal that a bit of the skin is missing from the top?
  • Noah’s son walks into a kosher deli and orders a sandwich.
    “Sorry,” said the owner. “We don’t serve Ham.”
  • A leading rabbi has ruled that marijuana is kosher
    Now we know what kids are gonna be doing for the Jewish High Holidays…
  • Moishe is driving in Jerusalem. He’s late for a meeting, he’s looking for a parking place, and can’t find one.
    In desperation, he turns towards heaven and says: “Lord, if you find me a parking place, I promise that I’ll eat only kosher, respect Shabbos, and all the holidays.”
    Miraculously, a place opens up just in front of him. He turns his face up to heaven and says, “Never mind, I just found one!”


tph new moon


The Harvest Festival

Submitted by IN SEINE  Friday, 5 February 2010

It’s Harvest Sunday at a small village church in rural England and the vicar is organizing his annual harvest service where people bring their home-grown plants and vegetables to the service.

But this year is different. The local village cricket team has just won their league and the village is in a celebratory mood so the vicar decides to do something special – he will combine the normal harvest service with a cricket theme.

The day of the service arrives and the church is filled with flowers. People are bringing in their offerings of vegetables, and in the middle of the display is a cricket wicket, a strip of turf with a set of wooden stumps at each end, and people are laying their offerings on the wicket. Everything is going fine until one lady comes up to the front of the church and places a bag of frozen peas among the other vegetables. She is stopped by the vicar and returns to her seat still clutching her peas.

“What happened?” asked the lady she’s sitting next to.

She shrugs her shoulders and says, “There’s no peas for the wicket.”


tph dilbert freewill

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